JOHN DELANEY is certain that the FAI can cover all debts arising from their commitment to the Aviva Stadium by 2020, but the actual level of sales for 10-year premium ticket remains a grey area after the association's AGM in Wexford on Saturday.
FAI accounts revealed that they had a net bank debt of €38m at the end of 2009 and Delaney refused to deny that the FAI borrowed further cash subsequently to cover a €21.9m contribution towards the completion of the renovated Lansdowne Road earlier this year. He said the 2010 accounts would show what they owe.
Fears have been expressed that the overall debt is considerably larger, with the accounts showing liabilities to creditors falling due within one year at €53,981,886 and amounts falling due after more than one year at €22,735,432.
However, the FAI have agreed a longer arrangement with National Irish Bank, which means they can now repay a substantial €46m loan back over five years.
"The debt is not €76m, absolutely not," said Delaney, the association's €430,000 a year CEO. "I can categorically state that -- we have sold new seats since January 2010."
Of course, the main income stream which the FAI are relying upon to cover their borrowings is the sale of 10,000 premium seats for the Aviva. Delaney said in his address to delegates that 6,300 have been sold, 'including sponsorship commitments.'
However, he admitted afterwards that the figure includes existing 10-year ticket holders from the old Lansdowne -- of which there is understood to be approximately 900 -- who haven't paid a cent since the launch of the Vantage Club scheme. Instead, Delaney is hoping that they renew their tickets in three years' time.
He could not reveal what percentage of the 6,300 related to contra deals or 'commitments' from sponsors, while admitting that those who bought in volume had secured discounts in addition to customers who paid up front.
Five-year tickets have also been sold to certain customers; even though a direct debit scheme stretched across the next decade was supposed to provide a constant stream of income up until 2020. Interest on their bank loans will kick into the accounts from 2010 onwards, adding to the strain.
When pressed on the actual level of sales from their heavily marketed Vantage Club project, which will now wind down, with the FAI taking control from the ticket sellers ISG, Delaney said: "You can use whatever language you like. There are 3,700 or 4,000 to sell. They are allocated. There are over 6,000 seats gone, that we cannot sell. There are roughly 3,700 -- a little more -- to sell."
At the launch of the scheme, back in September of 2008, Delaney and ISG stressed confidence that they could sell the full allocation of 10,000 seats -- which were priced between €12,000 and €32,000.
Delaney said, at that juncture, that the break-even point was the sale of 6,000 seats. He insists that remains the case, despite the considerable discounts and the revelation that approximately 900 seat holders haven't paid a cent in the interim period.
The FAI CEO attributes the retention of the 6,000 break-even mark to an increase in sponsorship -- with another significant deal to be announced in the coming weeks, following on from the arrival of '3' as primary sponsor.
Earlier, the FAI's Director of Finance, Mark O'Leary, gave a presentation to the meeting which pointed out that the association are not unusual in borrowing substantially to fund a stadium commitment. The Scottish and Welsh Rugby Unions' purchase of their respective homes, and the English FA's investment in Wembley Stadium, were cited as examples.
There were no questions from the floor, with the only comments from outside the top table consisting of eulogies to outgoing President David Blood -- who was replaced by Athlone man Paddy McCaul -- and to Delaney who was lauded by representatives of the provincial football association.
"We have delivered in the past and we will do so in the future," said Delaney, "Irish football is in good health."